The sign-up bonus is a concept that’s nearly as old as online poker itself. When online poker made its debut in the early 2000s, the competition between burgeoning platforms was fierce. Every operator was grappling with a pivotal question: “How do we attract players?” One of the answers was the invention of the sign-up bonus. The traditional sign-up bonus incentivizes new players to join up by matching a percentage of the amount they deposit. Since its invention the sign-up bonus has become nearly ubiquitous with online poker sites and there are now a large variety of promotions that players can choose from when they start playing online poker.
Why Do Poker Bonuses Matter?
You like free money, don’t you?
Online poker bonuses represent a way for new players to quickly build their bankroll with a relatively small amount of effort.
Now that’s not to say that poker bonuses don’t have some strings attached (we’ll get to that in a minute) but no one is turning down poker bonuses.
By getting a decent sign-up bonus, you’re essentially increasing the amount of money that you have to play with online. That means you can play some slightly bigger games without risking too much actual currency.
Besides all the aforementioned reasons, it’s also important to understand that everyone is generally getting a sign-up bonus anyway. You might as well get a good one.
Do I Get My Bonus Cash Instantly?
For the most part, no.
If online poker sites were to instantly award poker bonus cash, then players could simply withdraw and earn themselves free cash.
Instead most online poker sites have players “unlock” their bonus, which usually means playing a set number of real-money hands. Sometimes this is also referred to as a “playthrough requirement.” Every site has a different requirement so be sure to check the fine print before you sign up.
For small bonus amounts, it usually doesn’t take that long to unlock them but bigger bonuses can take thousands of hands or more to unlock.
You’ll find that if you’re a high-volume player who plays multiple tables at once, then it’s much easier to unlock a bonus compared to single-table play.
It’s important for players who are picking their bonus to try to get one that they’ll be able to unlock. For most players this means they should likely take a smaller but easier to unlock bonus if they have the option.
Regardless you won’t lose money by taking a huge sign-up bonus but you might not unlock it either.
There are a few sites that do offer small amounts of instant cash directly to a player’s bankroll but that money must be kept online for a certain amount of time before you can even think about withdrawing it. For casual players, however, it can be a useful perk.
What’s a No-Deposit Sign-Up Bonus?
Some sites offer no-deposit bonuses where you can cash on a site without even depositing anything.
There are a couple caveats to no-deposit sign-up bonuses, however:
Despite the downsides, no-deposit bonuses can be a fun way for players to try out a site and see what the real-money games are like without ever contributing any cash.
Are There Other Perks for New Players?
Yes. Online poker sites generally throw a wide variety of promotions at new players in hopes they will become regulars on the site.
Some of the common perks for signing up for a new poker site include tickets to free tournaments (or freerolls, as they are commonly known) or even cash game tickets.
Quite often sites will also offer free satellite seats so players can potentially qualify for big buy-in tournaments with huge cash prizes.
What’s a Reload Bonus?
Just because you’ve already taken advantage of a sign-up bonus doesn’t mean there aren’t bonuses for future deposits.
Periodically poker sites will offer reload bonuses for players who make more deposits. These are usually single-amount bonuses that are significantly less than initial sign-up bonuses but they are still worth seeking out.
Some poker sites also offer referral bonuses for when you sign up your friends so that can be another good way to get a little extra cash in your account.
What About VIP Bonuses?
VIP bonuses are very different from sign-up bonuses.
VIP programs, also known as loyalty programs, offer rewards to players who continue to play on a site for a significant amount of time. Loyalty programs vary considerably between online poker sites and it’s worth doing a little research into what’s available.
Some loyalty programs are weighted toward players who put in a considerable amount of volume while others are merely small perks for recreational players.
Most VIP programs are somewhat similar to an airline rewards program where you generate frequent flyer miles. Of course in poker you’ll be earning player points instead of frequent flyer miles.
Like an airline loyalty program, you can cash your points in for a variety of rewards including:
There are also VIP status levels. Basically if you play enough hands you’ll achieve statuses like gold, silver or platinum and benefit by earning points even faster and getting access to promotions such as exclusive free tournaments or free cash.